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My best advice in travel, as with anything in life, is to be prepared for anything. Here’s a list that I have perfected over years and years of travel of things that I will not leave home without. This particular list is meant to highlight things most people wouldn’t even think to pack but that can be super useful while traveling. Oh, and another thing – actually make a list before you pack! I have a note on my phone that I wrote years ago that I add to every time something comes up and I refer to every single time I pack. It just ensures that you don’t forget anything and minimizes the stress immensely.
- A universal adapter – Assuming that you are planning on traveling internationally, you will always need an adaptor and this way you won’t have to buy and keep track of one for every new country. It’s especially useful when you’re going to multiple destinations that may have different types of plugs.
- An extension cord – This might seem strange but it will make your life so much easier! They’re super lightweight, take up little to no space, and have lots of uses. When you’re in a hotel room with only one plug or where the plugs are in some impractical corner, use your handy dandy extension cord. Imagine you are traveling with a friend and are sitting at an airport and both of your phone are dying but there is only one wall outlet – use your extension cord. There are a ton of scenarios where you will thank yourself for including this.
- Sunscreen — Maybe it’s because I grew up in the sunshine state and have excessively fair skin that burns all too easily, but a little SPF is always a good idea to keep you protected.
- Copies of your passport and important documents – This one is pretty self-explanatory because if, God forbid, you lose your actual documents you have backup or you want to keep your actual documents locked in the hotel safe you can just carry your copies.
- Packing cubes – Useful to keep all of your clothes and accessories organized so you are not just constantly digging through messy piles in the abyss that is your suitcase.
- Good headphones and earplugs – So that you can drown out the screaming baby on your flight or the loud traffic on the street below your hotel room…
- First aid supplies – You never know what you might need and medical care should always be something you are prepared to handle, including any and all medications you need or could need. My usual list of medications includes all of my prescriptions and vitamins, Excedrin, Motrin, Pepto Bismol, Tums, and Bonine (the best motion sickness medicine you will ever try). You may consider getting a pill case for your medicines and a travel first aid kit like this one or this one.
- Hand sanitizer and/or antibacterial wipes – You don’t have to be a germaphobe to realize that many situations we encounter when we travel are pretty dirty, so keeping some hand sanitizer for use after holding a grimy subway bar or in a public restroom with no soap and some antibacterial wipes for sketchy hotel room tables or if you step in something awful and need to wipe off your shoes is just best practice. Personally, I carry these two things with me at all times anyways, but they’re extra useful when traveling.
- Wrinkle spray – Hopefully, you aren’t packing too many clothes that wrinkle really easily, but even if it’s for one or two items it can be nice to keep clothes looking fresh and you can never know whether your accommodations will have an iron or a steamer.
- Stain remover – Bringing a Tide to Go stick or a few travel pouches of laundry detergent may come in handy for any egregious wardrobe issues, like when you spill tomato sauce on your favorite white shirt or trip and slide down a muddy hill in the pouring rain. Not that those things have ever happened to me, of course…
- Safety pins – Many hotels will provide you with sewing kits, but regardless safety pins can be useful little tools for a variety of purposes.
- Ziploc bags (or a reusable form) – Never pack liquids loose in your bag! I repeat: never pack liquids loose in your bag! You are literally asking for a disaster to happen, for a cap to pop open and spill makeup remover all over your bag or a tube to puncture and squeeze sticky toothpaste throughout your belongings. Whether you use disposable Ziploc bags or you purchase some reusable pouches to keep things in, these are a packing must.
- A foldable raincoat or poncho – Weather, like most things in life, is fickle and unpredictable. You may need a travel rain coat, just in case, like this one or this one.
- A foldable tote bag (or four) – A few possible uses of foldable tote bags include: if your carry-on luggage is deemed too big or heavy and you need to take out your valuables to carry on the plane; a makeshift laundry bag; when you need to pick up a few groceries; when you buy some cute souvenirs at a local market and don’t have a great way to carry them; if you decide to go on a beach day and need a practical tote for the essentials. A reusable tote is a vastly underrated item. My favorites are this one, this one, and these ones.
- A mini flashlight – This is another thing that is just useful to keep around for any given situation, be it that you want to stay up reading while your travel companion wants to sleep or if there is a power outage and somehow your phone is not working or accessible. They’re so small and lightweight that it doesn’t hurt to have just in case.
- Portable luggage scale – Airlines are getting ever stricter on their baggage regulations and it sucks when you have to sit there in the middle of the airport trying to rearrange things while a line of people huffs and puffs behind you. As a serial over packer, luggage scales are my best friend. Try this one or this one.
- Luggage locks – They’re useful to have when you check luggage or if you’re room does not have a safe or for any variety of safety concerns. Make sure they are TSA approved, like these cute heart-shaped ones.
Keep in mind that many things can be purchased on the go, like shampoos and toothpaste. Especially when you’re trying to save space and keep your suitcase within those ridiculous weight limits, leave out anything you could easily buy elsewhere. Assuming you are not intensely loyal to any particular brand name or you know for certain that the item is not available where you’re going, many toiletry items are pretty consistent no matter where you are buying them.